Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah)

Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah)

The Angels Landing Trail is the most spectacular and most popular hiking trail in Zion National Park. But before deciding if you want to do it or not you have to answer two questions:

Are you afraid of heights or not?

If you do it is probably better to stick to less demanding trails. The last stretch of the trail is pretty nerve-racking when you climb along the narrow ridge with the one-mile abyss on the one side and half a mile void on another. It is beautiful but scary sometimes.

My wife is afraid of heights and there is absolutely no way she could complete this hike.

I have visited Zion previously, knew what to expect and had all the facts about the trail.

Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah) 1
Most uncomfortable part of the trail – top stretch
Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah) 2

Below is the 100% crop of the area of the Angel Landing trail.

Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah) 3

Second question: Are you comfortable waking up at 5am?

The Zion National Park is one of the busiest parks in the Southwest because of the proximity to Las Vegas and it is a popular destination for day tours from Sin City. And pretty much everybody wants to do Angels Landing.

If you decide to do the trail in the middle of the day between April and October you will not enjoy it. It looks like Times Square on New Year’s eve. The only way to enjoy it is to wake up at 5am, take the very first shuttle bus to the bottom of the trail. At this time of the day, you will hardly see any people.

Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah) 4
Utah. Zion National Park. Bottom of the Angels Landing Trail
Loc: 37.265410, -112.950776

Angels Landing Trail Info

Distance: 5-miles
Average Hiking Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous uphill hike.
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Trail Usage: Heavy
Map: Download the Zion National Park Hiking Map

Since the average person does not hike with a tripod and does not stop every 100 meters to take photos, I estimated the average travel photographer hiking time to somewhere between 7 to 8 hours.

I also knew that late morning and early afternoon hours in Zion could be very crowded and, in general, I am not very fond of people in my landscapes. Instead of unapologetically removing them from my reality in Photoshop, I decided to beat the crowd and start the hike as early as possible.

I was on the very first park’s shuttle bus in the early morning as I started my hike in a very comfortable cool temperature with absolutely no people around.

In the beginning, it was a steep but very comfortable hike, with amazing open views and plenty of room to setup a tripod.

Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah) 5

The last half-mile of the Angels Landing hike became a bit extreme. I had to pack my tripod and climb with the camera hanging around my neck. That was the moment when I really appreciated the switch from DSLR to mirrorless.

Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah) 6
Last half mile of the trail

For some reason, the hiking down was less uncomfortable than going up.

by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

10 thoughts on “Conquering Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park (Utah)”

  1. Awesome as always. It seems to do a very nice job the new hdr plugin in LR6! Till now I haven’t tried yet to do hdr shoots since I have no tripod and no auto bracketing on my d3200, but I’ll try it however with manual bracketing and post processing align, soon. Thanks Viktor for sharing all this beauty!

      • Roby, it was easy shot from the focusing perspective. I was shooting at 10mm and aperture F/7.1 so DOF (depth of field) was from 0.5m to infinity. I did not even bother to use manual focus, AF was good enough.

        • So it’s not that true what the web talks about 1/3 focusing rule on landscapes? I’m asking this to you because I’ve found that following that rule with my D3200 plus 18-55 lens has always resulted in a slightly blurry background even with small apertures like f/11 or f/16 and even following hyperfocal distance rule, whilst focusing on distant objects in the background always give me sharper photos from the foreground to the background.

          • Roby,

            when I use manual focus and I do not have a specific object to focus on (wide landscapes for example) I always use 1/3 rule. It works. And if you use such a small aperture (f/16) auto focus works pretty much always.

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